Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pekudei 5774

These are the accountings (pekudei) of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the Mishkan of Testimony.” (Shemot/Exodus 38:21)

The word pekudei usually is translated “reckonings” or “accountings” but Tehillim /Psalms 19:9 uses the same word with a different translation: Pekudei Hashem yesharim means “the orders/commands of Hashem are upright.” This brings a deeper meaning to the Torah verse.

Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff on writes that the Sfas Emes understands “orders” or “commands” to be mitzvot (commandments). The Sfas Emes goes on to explain how pekudei relates to the Mishkan. Writes Dr. Leff: “The word Mishkan comes from the same root as Shechina, the presence of Hashem. Thus, continuing this line of thought, we see that pekudei haMishkan comes to mean that by doing mitzvot, we bring Hashem into our midst.”

How does performing mitzvot bring G-d’s Presence into our midst?

Dr. Leff continues: “The pasuk (verse) says “the Tabernacle of Testimony”. The Sfas Emes explains that by performing mitzvot, we bear witness that we accept Hashem’s Kingship. Every mitzvah we do is testimony that we subordinate our will to that of Hashem.  And in so doing, Hashem’s Presence in the world becomes more apparent to the naked eye.”

As parents, even though we often are busy, rushed and preoccupied, we must slow down, concentrate and perform mitzvot with the proper kavana (intent) to connect with Hashem and do as He has commanded. When we do this, we will bring G-d’s Presence into our hearts, our homes and our world.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Vayakhel 5774

Every man whose heart uplifted him came; and everyone whose spirit motivated him brought the offering of the L-rd for the work of the Tent of Meeting, for all its service and for the sacred vestments.” (Shemot/Exodus 35:21)

In this week’s Torah portion, G-d makes the people responsible for constructing and furnishing the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The execution requires a high level of skill and craftsmanship.

How do these recently freed slaves acquire the know-how and experience to perform the highly skilled work of weaving, sewing and building?

Writes Rabbi Yehanosan Gefen on “The Ramban answers that they found deep within their nature the ability. These formerly hidden powers came about as a result of their deep desire to fulfill G-d’s will. As a result of their burning desire, G-d gave them the ability to do things they had never been taught.”

Explain Rabbi Yisroel and Rabbi Osher Anshel Jungreis in Torah for Your Table: “If we truly desire to fulfill the will of G-d, if our hearts burn with fervor for His sake, then G-d will remove all obstacles from our paths and enable us to achieve the impossible. We have an enormous power within ourselves of which we are not even aware, and that is faith. Indeed, if we have faith in our Heavenly Father and seek to fulfill His will, He will enable us to tap energies and abilities that we didn’t even know we possessed. We need only to act upon our dreams and they may well become reality.”

As parents, there may be situations in which certain tasks are required and we feel we are unqualified to perform, yet there does not appear to be anyone else suitable for the job. Rabbi Hillel tells us, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 2:6) When there is no one else and the need is pressing, we must rise to the occasion no matter how incapable we feel. Rabbi Gefen assures us: “If we dedicate ourselves to doing G-d’s will, then surely G-d will bring out in us hidden talents.”

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ki Tisa 5774

He [Moshe (Moses)] said, ‘Not a sound shouting strength, nor a sound shouting weakness; a sound of distress I hear.’” (Shemot/Exodus 32:18)

When Moshe descends from Mount Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments, he hears shouting. The people have just fashioned a Golden Calf idol. While Moshe could interpret the noise as a decadent celebration of rebellion, he instead perceives that the people are in distress.

How does Moshe know what the shouting means?

As an experienced leader, Moshe is able to determine why his people are acting strangely and what has caused their uncharacteristic behavior. He knows the people so well that he instinctively understands that they are not rebelling, but instead are expressing pain and anguish. (They have miscalculated Moshe’s expected arrival and believe he has died.)  Moshe is able to make the distinction between the sounds because he does not just hear the shouts – he listens to ascertain the meaning.

As parents, we can instinctively distinguish the various cries and distress signals of our young children, just as Moshe is able to differentiate the shouts of his people. We parents hear the cries and listen for the message. When our children speak, we must hear their words and listen carefully for the underlying subtext. Only then will we truly understand what our children are trying to express.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tetzaveh 5774

And you shall command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you pure olive oil, crushed for illumination, to light a lamp continually.” (Shemot/Exodus 27:20)

Talmud (Shabbat 21a) states that the Kohen (high priest) lights the Menorah by keeping his hand on each newly lit wick until its flame rises on its own and burns firmly and independently.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch notes that the lights of the Menorah symbolize Torah and its wisdom. “Torah is a light.” (Mishlei/Proverbs 6:23) “If you want wisdom, go to the south [where the Menorah is positioned in the Mishkan (Sanctuary).]” (Talmud, Baba Basra 25)

Rav Yissocher Frand on writes: “Using the Talmudic equation between Torah wisdom and the Menorah, Rav Hirsch explains the symbolism of having the flame arise on its own: The job of every teacher is to make himself superfluous. The job of every teacher is to inspire and to teach the student so that the student should become self-sufficient in his learning.”

As parents, we are our children’s first teachers. Our teaching continues even when our children leave home to attend school. Our goal and that of our children’s teachers is to train the children so well that they become independent and can “rise” on their own.